Tag Archives: lamentations

Veil of Tears 87: Unheard

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“Even when I call out or cry for help,

he shuts out my prayer.” Lamentations 3:8 NIV

 

To feel heard is a very basic human need. We all want to be listened to, to know that our needs and desires matter. This is perhaps especially so when we are talking to God, the one person we are told we can count on, who will never let us down. And yet, so often, we feel that we are talking away to the Almighty and no-one is on the other end of the receiver. “Are you really there at all, Lord?” we ask, or “What’s the good of my sitting here just talking to myself?” We convince ourselves that we are truly alone and maybe even, like Jeremiah in the verse above, that God is deliberately shutting us out, as though he had his fingers in his ears and were singing “nah na na nah na” like an obstreperous toddler.

But perhaps by now in this year’s journey we are becoming aware that just because it feels like something is a certain way, does not mean it is truly like that. Appearances are deceptive, and so are our emotions and our often selfish ways of looking at and experiencing things. I have found that as my prayer life has grown and matured, I am able to complain differently to God, including when I feel unheard. I can be confident that the very real pain or sorrow I am experiencing or expressing is not being ignored, that it is okay to feel it, as long as I know that what I am really doing is getting it out of my system.

God is never out, never not there, he hears and sees it all. He is always paying attention. He is always aware of what is going on in my life, and not just because I tell him about it. There is truly no danger of my being more informed about my world and my problems than God is. And yet God’s understanding and ours can feel very far apart. The solutions I would like can seem obvious and I would like them to be immediate. And yet I know that heaven doesn’t work like that. So I sometimes need to just say that it hurts to have to wait, or that it hurts to feel that God isn’t listening, because he seems to my human perceptions to be so slow to act.

And I believe God is okay with all of that. He knows our smallness and our limitations and our breathtakingly selfish vision. He is patient with us as the most loving parent to a frustrated child who is simply not capable of understanding why the mortgage has to be paid first before she can have her pocket money. We can snuggle into God at the same time as we are throwing a tantrum or sobbing or sulking, and it is okay. It is really fine, and even healthy. Just as long as we remember somewhere deep down, that we are love, that there is a plan, that there is a loving, wise, all-knowing God, and that we are not her.

All is heard, taken on board, our pain will be processed with grace, and we shall be comforted and consoled. It may not happen at the same time as we are angry or confused or lost or frightened, but it will happen. And from my own experience, I have to say that, like the analogous child I just mentioned, it is often beyond us at the point of deepest upset or frustration, to be comforted or consoled, or to have anything explained to us. Pain, especially when it has even the tiniest (and even justified) root in self-pity, acts as a barrier between us and God, partly because a small piece of us wants to be cross for a while. Letting it out is okay. And a sleepy face streaked with tears is always precious to a parent, and our ultimate father-mother will gather us up and kiss our cheek at just the right moment.

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

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71: Beleaguered

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He has besieged me and surrounded me

   with bitterness and hardship.

He has made me dwell in darkness

   like those long dead. 

He has walled me in so that I cannot escape;

   he has weighed me down with chains.” Lamentations 3: 5-7 NIV

 

Never one to mince his words, Jeremiah accuses God of the very harshest treatment. If we have been through dreadful times, or ever felt surrounded and overwhelmed by problems and difficulties, then we can surely identify with how the prophet expresses his frustration.

Ever since we married, my husband and I have felt besieged by ill health, redundancy and troubles. It takes all our limited strength to keep going and to hold onto our deep and consoling faith. We certainly feel that we are walled in, weighed down and under siege. But somehow, the occasional supplies are being brought in, our creative work sustains our spirits and our tiny garden and bonkers cat remind us that there are things even in all this to lift us and speak to us of the goodness of God.

And we feel the stress, and the strain to attempt to see light in the darkness. And we are exhausted and sometimes hopeless. But we hold onto the Lord and his promises, as Jeremiah too, will do once he has got his misery off his chest, and we will hope that even in the dank airless tomb that these verses describe, we might soon hear that clear and loving voice, calling, “Come out!” and be loosed into new life. Perhaps we may even look over our shoulders at these tough years in wonder as they lie in pieces like a shattered cocoon, suspecting that the transformation we have undergone might not have been possible without them.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

59: Hungry

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Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field.” Lamentations 4:9 NIV

Famine is a ghastly, grisly thing. We have all at some point seen the reports and photographs and heard the testimonies from those who have either survived famine or covered it for the world’s media. No-one who saw Michael Buerk’s first reports from Ethiopia in the 1980s will ever forget the images of starvation from the refugee camps there, or the shock that such a thing could still happen in the 20th Century.

And yet here we are in a whole new millennium, and famine is still a very real part of lives in the poorest parts of the world, and daily hunger a trial for many worldwide, even now in our so called developed countries, where there is a growing underclass of the deprived. Food bank use in the UK has tripled in the past few years thanks to an ever tightening of the belts of the poor forced on us by a greed driven government taking benefits and support mechanisms away in the guise of austerity measures.

In truth there is enough food for everyone if wealth were shared, and hunger really ought to be a thing of the past, rather than the accepted evil that it appears to be. And as well as a lack of food, there are other kinds of hunger, a great many needs that are simply not being met.

People hunger for a God who is represented to them in a way they can relate to. We hunger for truth and integrity, passion and justice, we hunger for holiness and wholeness and are left deeply dissatisfied by the forgeries that world offers us. In science fiction, we often see space travellers eating pills instead of real food, dehydrated nutrition that may give the essentials, but always made me wonder whether they must still be hungry. For it is not just our bellies that need food, need satisfaction, but also our eyes, our senses of smell and taste. We hunger for colour and texture and fullness. And it is the same in our spiritual lives.

As ambassadors of Christ we need to represent the Lord in terms of his fullness. We need to be living lives that make people hunger for the God we serve. Not because we have earthly riches, but because we are bearing the soul-nurturing golden fruit of the spirit, the riches of heaven bursting with flavour and running with glorious colours. We need to be talking about our God in ways that bring the hungry sprinting desperately to the feet of this Lord who satisfies, who blesses, who heals, who loves us into wholeness, whatever our worldly situation.

Yes, let us shine forth and represent with as much accuracy as we can, the Living God who fills that void that nothing else can, and who is no two-dimensional shadowy figure, the one we are told who will get us a yacht if we serve him right, the one who is just a good teacher, the one who is a judgemental old white man on a throne looking down his nose. Let us burst those famine-inducing images and knock them out of people’s hearts and heads by portraying glimpses of the Almighty, who knows us before we are conceived, who sings over us with joy, who loves us beyond measure, who watches over the storehouses of snow and rain and who will one day wipe every tear from our eyes. Let us tell people about the God who came down here and lived and died through every misery with us, and who spoke the good news of heavenly banquets and reassured us with the truth and beauty of the Father’s love, even as he said,

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:21 NIV

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

 

36: Lament

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I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the wilderness grasslands. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds have all fled and the animals are gone.” Jeremiah 9:10 NIV

 

Laments are something we don’t really do in the western northern hemisphere any more. I think this speaks volumes about the illusions we surround ourselves with. We seem to think that because we have more that we feel less. We seem to understand the world and our emotions in terms of satisfied stomachs and libidos, instead of realising that our hearts are deeper and more easily affected than that.

There are a lot of things to lament, and the loss of wildlife, as in the prophecy above, might well be one of them. Our so-called progress has come at a very high price. We might then, sing or pen a lament about the cruelty to animals, the intensivity of farming or consumer culture, or the oppression of the poor that marks our modernity. We might, in the UK today, sing a lament about the way the junior doctors and the NHS are being treated by the government, or about the rise in use of food banks, or about the refugee crisis.

We need also to sing personal laments, songs of our own misery, not to wallow in the sadness, but to express it. We all have griefs in our lives, and our society does not teach us what to do with them. Some will affect us for the rest of our lives, a loss, a bereavement, an assault, these are things that should be lamented, for those powerful emotions stuffed back down inside will squash our inner selves and suffocate the joy that longs to well up to counter them.

Lamenting is healthy and about giving voice to truth. The Psalms teach us the very best ways to lament, for even in desolate sadness they always come back to a hope in the Living God. Our feelings must never rule us on their own, they need to be tempered by reason and love. This is precisely why they need expression. Our stiff upper lips need permission to wobble a bit and let go. There is no sense in pretending all is well, no medals in life given out for telling everyone everything is going swimmingly when you feel like you are drowning. Let it out, let it go, express it, hear it, learn from it. Repeat if necessary, whenever you feel overwhelmed, especially if you are grieving, which is a never-ending process in many ways. But like breath, don’t hold it in.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

public domain photo, the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

7: Toothless

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“He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.” Lamentations 3:16 NIV

In this chapter of Lamentations, we find some of the most downcast descriptions of human misery the Bible has to offer. A prophet tormented at seeing his words come to pass, taken into exile with his people by the Babylonians, Jeremiah is beyond sorrow. And though he sees under the old covenant, all punishments righteously coming from God’s hand, he is also able to hope in God’s ultimate goodness, like Job, who said, “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him…” (Job 13:15 partial NIV).

Jeremiah has no way to fight his enemies, he is remembering all the terrible things he has seen, and the afflictions he has partaken of. It must indeed have seemed like his very teeth had been ground away, that all he had left to eat were stones, all he had to fight with were bleeding gums.

It is the toughest lesson in life, to sit face to face with our own powerlessness. But in a turn of faith, it is also the place where all is changed. Because it is not until we can face our true nature as dust, not until we are grounded in humility (humus=earth) and ground into our smallest particles, that we can finally look about us like toothless infants and see that all the control belongs to God. Once the acceptance of that truth comes we become strangely powerful ourselves, because we are his, because we know that we can rely on his words and his teeth to save us.

For it is whilst he is meditating on all this suffering and brokenness that Jeremiah comes to the far more well-known verses from this chapter, the conclusion that,

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 

it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

It is also good to remember that without the lament, we do not find the hope. The one lived through becomes the other, and we serve a God who delights in transformation, even turning a vile death on a cross into a universal victory. Yes, the world should beware those ground into the dust, the toothless and the weak. We are people of the living God.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com